Off to an 8-2-0 start, the first time it’s been over .500 through 10 games, Mercyhurst finds itself ranked 10th nationally.
Head coach Michael Sisti points to the experience of the team, in its fourth season, as the key to its current position.
Six of the Lakers’ eight losses last season were by one or two goals and two were in overtime. This year, the Lakers are 7-0-0 in games decided by two goals or fewer.
“Last year we started 2-4. We lost (three) games by one goal last year and had several others in which a late goal or an empty-netter finished it,” Sisti said. “This year, we’re winning those games. We’ve been in a lot of close games this year and won those. We’ve been in the hot seat and played with a lot of poise.”
— Mercyhurst coach Michael Sisti, on his team’s strong start
It also doesn’t hurt that his team has allowed just 16 goals in eight games while posting three shutouts. Defense and goaltending are two things Mercyhurst has with five senior defensemen and a goaltending tandem with 79 games of experience.
“I think defense is the strength of our team,” Sisti said. “We look after our end first but realize that, with some of the games we have coming up, we’ll need more than that.”
Although they are allowing just 1.60 goals per game, the Lakers are only averaging 2.20, despite averaging nearly 37 shots.
Minnesota State’s Shari Vogt held Mercyhurst to five goals on the weekend despite facing 98 shots. The Lakers lack of goal-scorers also plays a role in that. Senior K.C. Gallo is the team’s active goal-scoring leader with just 38 and she has not found the back of the net in nine appearances this season.
Yet, the Lakers realize that you can’t score without opportunities and Sisti said he’s happy with the fact that his players continue going to the net and working hard.
“We’ve had some instances where we just can’t get a bounce,” Sisti said. “But I’m happy that they are continuing to create scoring chances. Last weekend was probably our best weekend of the season in that regard, but we ran into an extremely hot goalie.”
Capitalizing on opportunities will be a priority in the coming weeks for Mercyhurst, as it plays its first conference games of the season this weekend with a home-and-home series against Findlay, followed by a five-game stretch including nationally-ranked opponents in No. 5 Wisconsin and No. 7 Brown, along with Princeton, which has received votes in each poll this season.
The next seven games, according to Sisti, will go a long ways towards determining his team’s fate at season’s end.
“We’re about where we expected to be at this point,” he said. “But there’s a ton of hockey left to be played.
“These next (nine) games before Christmas are very important to put ourselves in a position to do some good things. We’ve got three league games, which are important in our standings, but also to put ourselves in position for the second half of the season.”
After Christmas break, the Lakers’ schedule gets easier with seven games in January, six of which are against teams in the lower half of the ECAC’s preseason poll. However, the final month of the season features their final three league games, including two against Niagara, along with home games against No. 3 Harvard and No. 4 Dartmouth.
The last month of the season may be what determines Mercyhurst’s fate; the Lakers have an opportunity to head into that stretch with aspirations for reaching the Women’s Frozen Four on the line, and Sisti realizes that that opportunity is now.
CHA “House”Hold Hints
Mercyhurst goalie Tiffany Ribble won her second consecutive CHA Defensive Player of the Week award after stopping 34 of 37 shots in a series sweep at Minnesota State … League rookie of the week, Danielle Lansing, notched her first two career goals in the two Laker wins … Seanna Murphy played in her 100th career game in Sunday’s 3-2 victory … Findlay will be two-thirds the way through its CHA schedule following this weekend’s home-and-home series with Mercyhurst … Three of the Oilers’ last four games have been shutouts, including a pair of 5-0 Findlay victories … After going 2-for-12 on the power play in its first four games, Niagara was 4-for-14 in splitting a pair with No. 7 Brown … With three goals in six games, Wayne State’s Cheryl Anderson has tripled her goal output of last year (31 games) … The Warriors went 0-for-14 on the power play over the weekend and have failed to score in 24 chances this season … They are 0-for-29 in their last seven games dating back to last season.
Offensive Player of the Week–Cheryl Anderson, So., F, Wayne State
Defensive Player of the Week–Tiffany Ribble, Sr. G, Mercyhurst
Rookie of the Week–Danielle Lansing, Fr, D, Mercyhurst
Findlay at No. 10 Mercyhurst (Friday)
No. 10 Mercyhurst at Findlay (Sunday)
Mercyhurst won all five meetings between the two last season and is 10-2-2 all-time against Findlay … The Lakers are 5-0-2 at home against the Oilers … The Lakers are unbeaten in their last 34 games (33-0-1) when leading after two periods … Their last loss when leading after 40 periods was Nov. 25, 2000, when they allowed four third-period goals in a 4-1 home loss to Maine … Following Friday’s game at Mercyhurst, Findlay will play six straight home games … The Oilers have won three of five games in which they’ve allowed their opponent to score first.
Niagara at Wayne State (Friday)
Boston College at Niagara (Sunday)
Niagara has won all four of its previous meetings with Wayne State and its eight meetings with Boston College … The Purple Eagles are unbeaten in their last 45 games (42-0-3) when leading after two periods … New Hampshire scored three third-period goals, Dec. 5, 1999, to hand Niagara a 5-3 home loss — the last time it lost after leading through 40 minutes … Wayne State is 3-0-0 when scoring first and 0-3-0 when its opponent scores first … The Warriors have also won three times this season when leading after the first and second periods and lost three times when trailing after the first and second periods.